06 February 2008

Pastor Why...? - Saying Goodbye to "Alleluia"

Why do we “say goodbye” to the word “Alleluia” during the season of Lent?

In order to answer this question, let’s remember what “Alleluia” means and why we sing and say it so often in the liturgy.

“Alleluia” comes from two Hebrew words joined together to say “Praise Yahweh,” or “Praise the LORD.” We can see this in the other spelling of the word: “Hallelujah” (hallelu = praise; jah = Yahweh, or the LORD). Quite simply, “Alleluia” means “Praise the Lord!”

We use this ancient word to express great joy in praising God for His wonderful works of salvation. While we certainly praise and thank the Lord in many ways and for many things, we usually sing and say “Alleluia” with the spirit of great joy and elation.

So, when we come to the Season of Lent, we omit the word “Alleluia” from the liturgy and hymns. Why? Because Lent brings with it a spirit of somber reflection on our great need for salvation. Lent is a penitential season – a time of repentance for our many sins – and so we forego the spirit of joy that comes with “Alleluia.” For the six-week period of Lent and Holy Week, we fast from singing the word “Alleluia,” because we realize that we have strayed from our God and must return to the Lord our God.

When we fast from the word “Alleluia,” we do not sing the “Alleluia and Verse” (LSB, 156 & 173), and we forego singing canticles that contain the word, canticles such as “This is the Feast” (LSB, 155 & 171) and “Thank the Lord” (LSB, 164 & 181). We also fast from singing hymns with “Alleluia” in them.

But let not your heart be troubled! “Alleluia” will return on Easter Sunday. Then we will sing it with great gusto, because we will rejoice once again in the great things God does for us in raising His Son and giving us His victory over death!

1 comment:

Christopher D. Hall said...

There is also the tradition of substituting the phrase "Lord have mercy" for "Alleluia" when they appear in hymns.

This is probably the result of pastors who picked a hymn containing the word and didn't realize it until Sunday morning, and did the Holy Office Shuffle to cover for it. :)

But it is a nice alternative.